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Manju Mitra was fearful for her life after her husband beat her, demanded a bigger dowry and then threatened to kill her. Most Indian women suffering from abuse think twice before walking into a police station to lodge a complaint due to fear of sexual harassment from the all-male officers. An ATM-style machine installed at a bank is now empowering women like Mitra to report abuse without fear.
ICLIK, or “Instant Complaint Logging Internet Kiosk,” allows women to type out a complaint, or if she is illiterate, speak into the machine to register her complaint before it is forwarded to the police.
Mitra, now living with her father, was surprised at the speed of police action. “I’ve heard my husband is on the run because the police are trying to arrest him — and this is just two days after I lodged the complaint,” she said.
Shima Aktar was an 11-year-old girl in Bangladesh when her father pulled her out of school and began planning for her marriage to an older man. Shima would have accepted her father’s decision were it not for the support of a local youth advocacy group that educates young people on gender roles, sex discrimination and early marriage.
Now that she knows her rights, Shima is fighting hard to assert them, joining a grassroots army of young women in Bangladesh who are determined to change traditional views about gender. According to UNICEF, some 600,000 adolescents around the country — 60 percent of them girls — are now educated on issues like the legal marriage age of boys and girls, as well as the importance of education and family planning.